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4 Essentials for Finishing Well

The outworking of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices will be different for each of us. For some it might mean reducing one’s standard of living in order to be able to give more to God’s kingdom work. For our son, it meant taking a lower-paying job in order to have more time for ministry. For me at this time, it means being willing to continually give myself to the ministry God has given me. At the time of this writing, it is only a couple of weeks until my 78th birthday.

Over the past dozen years I have flown over a million miles, I have delivered over a thousand messages, I have written several books and a number of articles for Christian magazines. I confess I often get weary of the continuous travel, the frequent writing deadlines and the pressure of constant message preparations, and I sometimes begin to feel sorry for myself. How do I keep going? How do I keep from feeling sorry for myself? Each day as I appropriate the gospel for myself, I say to God, “I am your servant. Because of your mercy to me and your grace at work in me, I again present my body as a living sacrifice. If this means continual travel and continual time pressure, I accept that from you and thank you for the privilege of being in your ministry.”

4. A Firm Belief in the Sovereignty and Love of God

The fourth essential is a firm belief in the sovereignty and love of God. This essential doesn’t have the word daily in it, but it must be practiced continually. Years ago M. Scott Peck wrote a book (The Road Less Traveled) that began with a three-word sentence: “Life is difficult.” Most people would agree with that. If you’ve lived very long you realize life is difficult, or at least it’s often difficult, and sometimes it’s even painful. And over time you will experience both difficulties and pain. So if you want to endure to the end, if you want to stand firm in the face of life’s difficulties and pain, then you must have a firm belief in the sovereignty and the love of God. You must not only believe that God is in control of every event in his universe and specifically every event in your own life, but that God, in exercising that control, does so from his infinite love for you.

At one time I suffered a crushing and humiliating disappointment in my work situation. It certainly was not due to the sinful actions of other people, but it was due to their thoughtless and uncaring actions. This action occurred on a Thursday afternoon, and I was scheduled to speak at a weekend conference beginning Friday night. How could I possibly recover from the hurt and humiliation so as to be able to speak Friday evening?

On Friday morning I awakened with the words of Job in my mind, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). In my time with God that morning I was able to say, “Lord, in times past you gave, but now you have taken it all away. I accept this as from you.” My turbulent emotions quieted down, and I was able to speak at the conference as if nothing had happened. And I never became at all bitter toward those other people. This was because I believed in the sovereign control of God in their actions.

It’s possible that sometime in your life things will totally fall apart and you will feel that you have nothing left. Let me tell you, there are two things that God will never take away. God will never take away the gospel. In the most difficult days of your life you still stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Your sins are forgiven. Even your doubts are forgiven because Christ fully trusted the Father on your behalf. And, second, God will never take away his promises. These two assurances will remain even if everything else is stripped away. If you were brought to the point of being like Job, this you can count on. You stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He will never, never take the gospel away from you. And you will always have his promise, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”